Man oh man. I appreciate all your insightful comments on my post about Kathleen Parker last Friday afternoon. There was a lot of blogosphere anger directed at Parker from many different blogs and media outlets, so one would think maybe she’d get it by then. And write a follow-up apologizing.
I guess that was too optimistic of me to assume.
On Sunday, Parker wrote a follow up column in the Post and tried to sort-of-but-not-really apologize, or more like explain where she was coming from while still standing by her previous statements. She brushed off most criticisms of her column, saying that people are “too sensitive.” But then she got to the part about how she did not understand that if Obama showed more rage at BP, he would be perceived as an angry black man. And why didn’t she see this coming? Parker explains:
But I also recognize that my life experience is different from that of most African Americans. And that experience allows me both the luxury of seeing people without the lens of race, but also (sometimes) to fail to imagine how people of other backgrounds might interpret my words.
As my Post colleague Jonathan Capehart wrote on the PostPartisan blog — and explained to me in a telephone conversation — black men are held to a different standard than whites. They are practiced in keeping their emotions under wraps. They can’t “go off,” as some have urged Obama to do in response to the gulf oil spill.
I hadn’t thought of it this way, but I take Jonathan and others at their word that it’s a fact of life for African American men.
You’ll have to take me at my word when I say that I don’t view Obama exclusively as a black man — no matter what he said on his census form. Not only is he half-white, but also he has managed to transcend skin color, at least from where I sit.
To which I have to say, I honestly thought I couldn’t be more annoyed than I was after her first column dropped last week. But now I am even angrier, if that’s possible. I’m struggling to even find adjectives to convey this right now.
In her follow up, Parker displays all the classic symptoms of total obliviousness to white privilege. She talks about how because she is white, which she views as the normative, default race, she does not see race in the world! Only people of color see race, because they have to! She is fortunate enough to never have to think of race!
Then she goes on to say that in her mind, she doesn’t even think of Obama as a black man because a) technically he’s still only half and b) he transcends skin color!
Is anyone else reminded of Chris Matthews famously saying for a moment, he forgot Obama was black?
Or during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings last summer, when Senator Inhofe said he was concerned that Sotomayor, a woman of color, might let her “personal gender and race” affect her rulings on the bench?
My biggest question is: why do people like Parker (and Matthews and Inhofe) always place the burden on people of color to “transcend skin color” and prove that they can be “colorless”? Why do white people get to claim that they are “colorblind” (a term whose definition is dubious to begin with) but people of color have to make extra effort to make society “forget” their race or to “transcend” their race?
All this does is continue to reinforce the idea that white is the default, and that those who are not white have to prove whether they can get past their skin color and be “mainstream.” The burden is on us, folks, to prove that we can make people forget our skin color.